Whatever you think the world is withholding from you, you are withholding from the world. Eckhart Tolle
Trips through the grocery store are now perfunctory. I switched to CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) as a source of food some 18 years ago, so when I go to the commercial grocery, I’m checking off a list of non-negotiable items like the ingredients for a recipe I’m testing or household elements that are needed to carry on.
All to say that the grocery is not the friendly community stroll that it once was besides the hunt for essentials can cover immense square footage the like of an olympic competition involving counter intuitive product placement and occasional sprints.
I was absorbed in the hide and seek adventure last week when I bumped into another pilgrim who once attended the church I have been a member for over 50 years.
“We’ve missed you,” I said scrambling to offer a nicety.
“I’ll bet,” was his response as he swept by with a dry smile, a simper that disheartens.
I brooded. Not sure if he meant “I’ll bet, because I was the beast of burden while attending said church” or “I’ll bet, because I am not missed and no one appreciated what I had to offer.”
The church is not the only bungalow that brews such arrogance, though it is the most unfortunate particularly since it is a proclaimed house of God struggling to arrest declining attendance. I empathize. Many times I’ve had the urge to break up with the church.
You know the feeling. I am the possessor of truth. The only one capable, the one performing vital labor. Really, the one gifted with clear sight -from God’s mouth to my ear.
That righteous response is a sneaky reflex. Often the heart slams shut right then and there. Too late unless we can turn the knob on complicity and view our frailer selves flapping in the breeze almost unrecognizable from intentions.
But in fact the angst involved in gripping the book of rules chips away at the soul. All subsequent experiences in life are subtlety flattened and our circle of influence fades into a tiny shrivel of what could have been.
Not to point fingers because this is a lonely human experience that we all share.
Funny thing though is that it seems best practices could be perfected within religion like no other clubhouse. Houses of worship share behavioral guidelines, for heaven’s sake!
Love bigger they say. Yes, they do; check me on that as Richard Rohr says, but I believe you’ll find truth there.
Still in the end many say no thanks. Community is too complicated. Take my own father for instance, after cheerfully attending and teaching Sunday School for many years, he approached the elders for sanction to begin a pre Habitat for Humanity-like project involving the youth of our church. They dismissed him with a grumble about insurance costs and he rarely set foot there ever again.
Still others hang on for a lifetime touting the safety record.
Amid such altercations can you believe Jesus continues to say “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Let not your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
I soothe myself and breathe. I unclench my fist in a promise to hold my fearful tongue. Trust in the nature of things and the inevitable majesty of creation. Sigh.
Understand, I am not speaking of rollover. I am talking the opposite of righteousness which is elegant flexibility, a state of being that opens the heart.
Consider for the ninety millionth time…. those birds. “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”
So we are enabled to anticipate another chance, another encounter. Instead of singing about it, we can heave ourselves onto the love train and choose a car filled with pilgrims we don’t know. Then we can listen to each other . You go first.
I know. The presence of the “other” could threaten that sense of the way our story is supposed to go, but could it also be true that the creator is growing inside of us pushing old biased and uninformed notions out so glory can shine?
I have studied myself and found this to be all too true.
With great relief I remember that creation guarantees a new leaf tomorrow. It always begins the same way. We will bump into “the other” of that I have no doubt.
Perhaps I’ll even get another chance with the grocery store pilgrim. By then I’ve had time to see myself in him.
Sporting good humor and an open heart, I’ll bravely open my arms to signal a big hug and ask for a ticket to ride that train back towards home.
Funeral food, for me, has always had an aura of the heavenly. Ever since I attended my sister-in-law’s mother’s funeral in Monroeville, Alabama, I never looked back on the value of such industry.
Mrs. Arceneaux was buried in a small cemetery next to a tiny church that she attended as a child. Though she no longer knew the townspeople or church congregants, several ladies prepared a lovely lunch a la white linens for the family.
Such an inspired show of care regardless of direct connection to those bestowed is godly. I’m sure of it.
These days, I prepare old fashion finger sandwiches for funeral gatherings in our church basement. Table spreads of volunteer trays have been shoring up the bereaved be they young, old, recovered or grouchy since before I was born.
My mother’s tradition was to prepare a variety of sandwiches, arrange them artfully in an oversized basket and deliver them to the grieving family. I do a riff with tea sandwiches on a silver tray that I copied from that time I took high tea at Brown’s Palace in Denver.
Prepare your favorite chicken salad, egg salad or cheese and olive mixtures.
Cut bread in circles with cookie cutters.
Dampen tea towels and use to cover sandwiches until serving time.
Chop up remaining crusts to bake for croutons.
These are my favorite combinations:
Chicken salad with white raisins and marble rye
Curry egg salad with celery and cranberries and white bread
Goat cheese/Olive and wheat bread